We Must Make Our Homes Warmer, Dryer, and Healthier – The Spinoff | Hot Mobile Press

New Zealand’s homes are notoriously cold, wet and drafty – and they’re causing significant damage. Simon Day visited Bunnings to learn about some solutions.

This content was created in paid partnership with Bunnings.

Winter sucks. But this winter feels particularly hard. It is rains endlessly. Covid and the flu have been relentless. The nights were freezing. And everyone on Instagram seems to be on vacation.

I live in the bush in West Auckland with my wife and our twin boys in a cute and compact house that was built in the 1970’s. We are fortunate to have a heat pump and HRV system. But we also have cracks in our windows and an icy breeze that blows through our house every winter. For all the beauty of life in a native rainforest, Titirangi can be quite wet and cold. Every morning we wake up to condensation on our bedroom windows.

This winter it seemed time to fix some of those issues and ensure our homes are as warm and healthy as possible. I’ve traditionally opted for an extra layer and a blanket to stay warm while watching TV at night, before cramming under the covers and waking up in the morning with a cold nose.

But with two new family members, we left the heat pump running longer and heated the boys’ bedroom to 20 degrees all night because we know how important it is for babies’ health. But with my electric bill hitting $75 a week this winter, I knew there had to be a better way to ensure my house is warm and healthy. It turns out there are heaps.

I’ve always been insecure about my limited DIY skills. While I have a tool kit and better coordinated with a hammer as Sir John Key, I have no natural instinct or self-confidence. My father considers it one of his major failures as a father. And my in-laws schedule regular visits where they spend long weekends doing all the chores I’m not cut out for.

When I arrived to meet Bunnings Gray Lynn coordinator Del Belham, he immediately made me feel like I was in charge of the health of my home. He listened carefully to my house’s problems and explained that there are a number of easy DIY options to make the house warmer and drier that I could absolutely do myself. And if I wanted to take bigger steps Rabbits was able to connect with the right people.

Del Belham, Bunnings Gray Lynn Coordinator (Photo: Simon Day)

According to Carl Halford, Bunnings New Zealand’s Head of Merchandise, the average home uses around 38% of its energy consumption just for heating and cooling. And there are many simple and affordable things you can do to heat your home more efficiently.

“The first port of call is your doors and windows. Up to 25% of heat loss can be attributed to drafts from your windows and doors,” says Halford. “If you have hardwood floors, cover them with rugs or rugs to prevent cold air from rising through the floorboards. Consider installing good quality blackout curtains and blinds on your windows – closing them can reduce heat loss in your room by 10%. Ceiling insulation is another great way to keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer.”

I left with foam gaskets for my windows to close the gaps and prevent drafts through the house. I have a thick, heavy draft excluder for my front door. I have two new wall heaters for the boys room and our bedroom which are more energy efficient. I also got a lot of new knowledge about how to make sure my house is properly insulated and stuck my head in the attic void for the first time to check how the ceiling insulation looked.

And it might sound simple, but Del taught me the importance of ventilating when cooking and showering, and gave me tips on when and how to make sure my house breathes while staying warm. While we double glazed the boys’ bedroom windows before they were born, we can’t afford that for our room, so Del showed me how to reproduce the effect with a window insulation kit for a fraction of the cost.

Del Belham and a health van (Photo: Simon Day)

Why is all this important? Generations of New Zealanders have grown up in cold, damp homes. Our housing stock is known to be poorly insulated, draughty and unhealthy. Living in a cold home almost feels like a rite of passage. I spent a winter as a student in Dunedin with a piece of cardboard over a smashed window in my bedroom. I asked Chris Redgwell, National Manager at G-Force New Zealand – Experts in Creating Healthy Homes – why warm, dry homes matter and why we must strive to be better in New Zealand. It starts with our shift in our psyche, he says.

“We believe every New Zealander should live in a comfortable and healthy home – warm and dry in winter and cool in summer. While many parts of the developed world have adapted their building practices to achieve this, we in New Zealand still have the mistaken belief that this is just the way it is and that we should ‘put on a different sweater’ when we’re cold.”

The impact of poor housing on Aotearoa is real. Doctors report that diseases related to our cold and damp homes are on the rise and are having long-term effects, especially in children. In a 2018 report from the New Zealand Asthma Foundation, the bronchiectasis hospitalization rate in children under 15 years of age had tripled between 2000 and 2018. Bronchiectasis is the scarring and permanent damage to the breathing tubes of the lungs caused by a severe chest infection and usually only occurs in developing countries.

A current survey by AMI and Habitat for Humanity found that 300,000 households go to bed earlier when it’s cold and 145,000 households stay in a room and only heat that room on cold nights. respiratory disease affects 700,000 people and costs our country $6.7 billion each year. That’s not okay, says Redgwell.

“Our homes are designed to protect us from the elements; The inside of your home shouldn’t reflect what’s happening outside. For many of our homes, that’s clearly not the case,” he says. “For the sake of our health and well-being, we need warm and dry homes. When your home or rental apartment is cold, damp, and moldy, it can affect the health of your respiratory system and your family. To improve your family’s health, it is important to ventilate, heat, draft control and insulate your home to keep it warm and dry and your family healthy.”

New Zealand’s homes are wet, damp and drafty (Photo: Getty Images)

For landlords, it is not only important for the health of their tenants, but is now also required by law. In 2019, the government passed the Healthy Housing Standards Act, which requires rental properties to meet minimum standards for heating, insulation, ventilation, draft control, moisture control and drainage. Beginning in July 2021, all home owners must meet these standards within 90 days of a new or renewed lease.

This is where Bunnings and G-Force can help. G-Force offers a Homefit Assessment that identifies the areas of a home that can be improved to create a more comfortable and healthier environment for you and your family. They can help you figure out which of the projects you can do yourself and which will require a skilled handyman. As I’ve found, Bunnings offers a range of options, expertise, and really helpful online articles and videos to help you make these projects a reality.

“New Zealanders are becoming aware of the health problems associated with an unhealthy home, but many believe the problems are expensive or difficult to fix,” says Bunnings’ Carl Halford. “We’re here to help them find the right home solutions that fit their budget.”

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